Top critical review
Fine cast; shame about the production
on 13 October 2015
My star rating based on my giving five stars for the singing and the orchestra, while the staing barely merits one star and is just anothet example of how modern directors and producers labour under the misapprehension that they are vastly more important than the composer, the librettist, the singers, the orchestra and the conductor - not to mention the source.. The attempt to link the action to the Manhatton Project and make it 'relevant' for a public that is not in tune with the moral and religious ethos of the original story is rendered risible by the resoloutely Christian text; the attempt to evoke the horror of the 1sr World War as the soldiers return is likewise undermined by the martial words of the soldiers' chorus. According to the notes, the director sees the action as taking place in a split second of memory before Faust commits suicide, demoralised by his work as a nuclear scientist. So did the pact with the devil and the seduction of Marguerite ever happen? The more you try to work out what the director was thinking, the more muddled the production becomes.
It would probably be best watched with eyes closed were it not that the title role is sung by Jonas Kaufmann. Poplavskya is a very convincing Marguerite, expressing the character's transformation in every gesture as well as every word. There is an harshness in her voice in the final, sublime trio as she begs for God's pardon and holds both Faust and Mephistopheles at a distance. I am sure it works wonderfully in the live performance but am not sure about it for repeated listening. Dramatically, however, it is fully justified, and she closes radiently in the knowledge of her salvation. Rene Pape is a most urbane Mephistopheles, perhaps missing the depth and underlying menace of Terfel until the moment he tells Marguerite she is damned. The roles of Siebel and Valentin are beautifully sung.
The obvious comparison has to be with the ROH's performance of the opera with Gheorgiu, Alagna and Terfel which was televised years ago. On the basis that Alagna is Kaufmann's equal, and everything else is wonderful, I could wish I had that performance on the shelves.